Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 13:29 UK

Russia 'upset' by US shield plans

Russia President Dmitry Medvedev
Mr Medvedev said he was offended by the US plans

President Dmitry Medvedev says Russia is extremely upset after the Czech Republic agreed to host part of a US missile shield.

"We will not be hysterical about this but we will think of retaliatory steps," Mr Medvedev said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was "disappointed" by Russia's reaction to the shield plans.

Earlier, the Pentagon criticised "bellicose rhetoric" from Russia "designed to make Europeans nervous".

'No hysteria'

On Tuesday, the US and the Czech Republic signed an initial deal to base a tracking radar system - an essential part of the missile shield - on Czech territory.

"We are extremely upset by this situation," Mr Medvedev told a news conference from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, where leaders of the G8 group of industrial countries are meeting.

Ms Rice said she had hoped that Moscow would realise that the shield "is not aimed at them".

"I'm sorry to say it was predictable - if disappointing - given all the effort both US Defense Secretary [Robert] Gates and I have made to offer the Russians significant ways for transparency, confidence and for co-operation," Ms Rice said from Sofia, in reaction to the Russian president's comments.

Earlier, a White House spokesperson said dialogue with Russia would continue and underlined that the aim of the missile defence system was to prevent missiles from rogue nations, like Iran, threatening the US and its allies.

Despite such assurances, Moscow fears siting the system near its borders could weaken its own defences.

It has previously threatened to aim its own missiles at any eventual base in Poland or the Czech Republic.

'Not our choice'

Earlier, a Russian foreign ministry statement said: "If a US strategic anti-missile shield starts to be deployed near our borders, we will be forced to react not in a diplomatic fashion but with military-technical means."

Condoleezza Rice on the need for the shield

It said there was "no doubt that the grouping of elements of the strategic US arsenal faced towards Russian territory" would mean Moscow had to "take adequate measures to compensate for the threats to its national security".

The foreign ministry said it would continue to monitor developments but would remain open to constructive talks on issues of strategic stability.

The BBC's Adam Brookes in Washington cites Russia's ambassador to the UN as suggesting that the phrase "military-technical means" does not mean military action, but more likely a change in Russia's strategic posture, perhaps by redeploying its own missiles.

More likely still, our correspondent says, is that the Russians are trying to frighten the Czech parliament into backing out of the whole deal.

The next question, he says, is whether Poland will accept missile defence facilities as well, and how the Russians will respond to that.

The plans remain unpopular in the Czech Republic, while the US has failed to reach agreement with Poland on placing other parts of the system there.

The plans involve siting the tracking radar system in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. The US wants the sites to be in operation by about 2012.

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